Home > Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(2)

Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(2)
Author: Katie MacAlister

"This is good," he said, grinning. "You are so kind to Geirfinnur, we will show you around tonight, show you places tourists don't normally see. We know a good place to see fireworks. You would like that?"

"I would love it," I said, sincerely pleased at the thought of meeting some local folk. My happiness was short-lived as I pulled up a mental image of the tour itinerary. "Only... drat. I think our tour is going out into the countryside tonight, to see some ruins."

"Ruins are very pretty here," Jens said. "But not as pretty as fireworks, I think."

"Fireworks!" Geirfinnur parroted, suddenly rushing me and wrapping his arms around my waist as he looked up. "Fireworks are good!"

"Geir, do not annoy the lady. She has a tour to go with. What ruins are you going to visit?"

"It's some sort of protected forest with a ruin contained within. I'm afraid I don't remember the name, but evidently it has some tie-in to a cult that was supposed to be very prominent around midsummer, and since that's just a couple of days away - "

"Ilargi!" Jens gasped, his expression suddenly horror filled as he snatched his son from where he was bouncing up and down on my feet. "You are Ilargi?"

"Me? No, I'm Irish. Mostly. There's some German on my mom's side."

Jens eyed me warily. "If you are not Ilargi, are you from the Brotherhood?"

"I'm not overly religious," I said slowly, confused by his reaction. "I'm sorry, maybe we're having a communication issue, despite the fact that your English is exceptional. This Ilargi place that we're going to visit tonight isn't an abbey or a religious house, it's a stretch of untouched forest, which I gather is rare. It's supposed to have some sort of pagan meaning, but I'm afraid I kind of skimmed that section of the itinerary."

"Not pagan," Jens said, picking up his squirming son and backing away. "Not good. Stay away from Geirfinnur. Stay away from Ilargi."

Before I could ask him just what the dickens that meant, he turned and bolted, Geirfinnur's waving hand the last thing I saw before they were swallowed up by the dancing crowd.

"Well, how do you like that?" I asked no one in particular. I was answered by a brutal jab to the back, reminding me that there were better places for contemplation of confusing Icelanders than the middle of a dance floor.

I made my way back to my table and ordered another lemonade, nursing it as I watched the people swarm around me. What on earth was so wrong with the Ilargi forest that it triggered such a strong reaction in Jens? Did Audrey know about it? I wondered.

Before I could mull over what I wanted to do next, a dark-haired woman plopped down in the chair that had previously been occupied by Geirfinnur. She shot a glare over her shoulder toward a very handsome blond man as he bumped her back while escorting two children wearing blue and white horns past us. "Hey, Pia. You look like I feel. Did you hear? The trip to the forest is off for tonight. And a good thing, too. I could do without being eaten alive by mosquitoes and god knows what other kinds of insects there are around here. I don't suppose you've seen Audrey? She disappeared right after she told me about the cancellation, and I didn't have time to have a word with her about the serious lack of men on this tour."

"Not since lunch, no," I answered, digging out my disposable camera to snap a picture of the behorned kids as they waved flags madly. "I think she said something about checking on the accommodations in Amsterdam."

Denise, the fourth woman on the tour, and my least favorite of all the members, curled a scornful lip at my answer. "Bah. We don't go there for three days. Not that I won't be glad to get out of this country. I've just been in the most appalling bookshop over there. Ugh. They didn't have anything printed in the last hundred years. And the spiders! Who'd have thought that Iceland would have such big spiders? Positively tarantulas! Here, you! Diet Coke. Coca-Cola. You understand?" Denise grabbed a passing waitress and shook her arm. "Pia, you have a phrase book - how do you say that I want a Diet Coke?"

The waitress gave her a long-suffering look. "I speak English. We do not have Coke. I will bring you a Pepsi."

"Whatever, just so it's cold." Denise released the waitress and used my napkin to mop at the sweat that made her face sparkle in the bright afternoon sunshine. "Sorry I just sat down without asking you, but we big girls have to stick together. You weren't waiting for anyone, were you?"

Sharp, washed-out hazel eyes peered at me from beneath overplucked eyebrows, a gloating glint indicating that an answer in the affirmative would surprise her greatly. I adopted a polite smile and shook my head, my teeth grinding at both her expression and the big-girl comment. I had come to grips with the fact that I was what my mother euphemistically termed "big boned," but I didn't need to be reminded of it every few minutes, as Denise was wont to do.

"Didn't think so," she answered with sour pleasure. "Women like us never get the guys. It's always the ones who put out who end up having all the fun. That Magda. Did you hear her last night? She was at it all night long. I asked Audrey to change my room, but she says the hotel is full and they can't. Honestly, why on earth did I spend two grand on a singles' tour of romantic Europe if the only men on the trip are old, perverts, or gay, and I have to spend every friggin' night listening to Magda get her jollies. "Oh, Raymond! Harder! Harder, my stallion of love!'" she all but yelled in an obscene parody of Magda's Spanish-inflected voice.

"Shhh," I cautioned, frowning at the startled looks we received from people seated around us. "Others can hear you."

"So what?" She shrugged. "They can't understand us, and even if they could, I'm not saying anything that isn't true. Has Raymond hit on you yet? He tried me this morning, but I wouldn't have anything to do with him. I don't take her leftovers." She cast an acid glance toward the dancers.

I had no doubts at all - Magda and I shared a bathroom, and noises from her room were audible through it - that Raymond and she were actually hitting it off rather well, but it was almost impossible to believe that he'd want anything to do with Denise. She was pretty enough, with dark brown hair that was carefully coiffed, a heart-shaped face, and an overall impression of neatness despite the trials of traveling out of one bag, but her personality did much to ruin the first impression.

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